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Tibbles v. Teachers Retirement System of Georgia

Supreme Court of Georgia

July 13, 2015

TIBBLES
v.
TEACHERS RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF GEORGIA et al

Reconsideration denied July 23, 2015.

Mandamus. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge LaGrua.

Carley, Gregory & Gregory, George H. Carley, Hardy Gregory, Jr., Antoinette D. Gregory; Nabors Law Group, William L. Nabors, Jr.; David C. Ates, for appellant.

Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Annette M. Cowart, Christopher A. McGraw, Senior Assistant Attorneys General, Bryan K. Webb, Assistant Attorney General, for appellees.

OPINION

Page 528

Blackwell, Justice.

Following 31 years of service as a teacher in the public schools, Carol Tibbles retired in April 1994. She is a member of the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia, and as such, she is entitled by law to annual retirement allowance in an amount

equal to 2 percent of [her] average compensation over the two consecutive years of membership service producing the highest such average, multiplied by the number of [her] years of creditable service, not to exceed 40.

OCGA § 47-3-120 (a) (2). To calculate the amount of the allowance to which Tibbles was entitled, the System looked to the compensation that she

Page 529

earned in the 24 consecutive calendar months beginning with February 1992, and it applied the statutory formula to that compensation. It appears that the System consistently has paid Tibbles an allowance in an amount consistent with that calculation.

Tibbles claims, however, that the System miscalculated the amount to which she is entitled. First, she says, the statutory reference to " two consecutive years" does not mean 24 consecutive calendar months. She argues that it instead means 730 consecutive calendar days, unless one of those days is a leap day, in which case, it means 731 consecutive calendar days. Second, Tibbles says, the statutory reference to " average compensation" refers to compensation paid, not compensation earned, in the pertinent two years. So, rather than looking to her compensation earned in the 24 consecutive calendar months beginning with February 1992, Tibbles urges, the [297 Ga. 558] System should have calculated her allowance based upon the compensation that she was paid from Thursday, December 5, 1991 through Friday, December 4, 1993, including the paychecks that she received on the first and last days of that period, the former of which was for her work as a teacher in November 1991.

Tibbles sued the System and its trustees, seeking legal and equitable relief for the alleged miscalculation of her annual retirement allowance. The trial court awarded summary judgment to the System, finding that the System adhered to its own rules and policies in calculating the amount to which Tibbles is entitled, and concluding that those rules and policies comport with OCGA § 47-3-120 (a) (2). Tibbles appeals, and we affirm.

1. This case concerns the meaning of OCGA § 47-3-120 (a) (2), and so, we begin with the familiar and settled principles that inform our consideration of statutory meaning. " A statute draws it meaning, of course, from its text." Chan v. Ellis, 296 Ga. 838, 839 (1) (770 S.E.2d 851) (2015) (citation omitted). When we read the statutory text, " we must presume that the General Assembly meant what it said and said what it meant," Deal v. Coleman, 294 Ga. 170, 172 (1) (a) (751 S.E.2d 337) (2013) (citation and punctuation omitted), and so, " we must read the statutory text in its most natural and reasonable way, as an ordinary speaker of the English language would." FDIC v. Loudermilk, 295 Ga. 579, 588 (2) (761 S.E.2d 332) (2014) (citation and punctuation omitted). " The common and customary usages of the words are important, but so is their context." Chan, 296 Ga. at 839 (1) (citations omitted). " For context, we may look to the other provisions of the same statute, the structure and history of the whole statute, and the ...


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